Chemotherapeutic management of stage IV non-small cell lung cancer

Chest. 2003 Jan;123(1 Suppl):226S-243S. doi: 10.1378/chest.123.1_suppl.226s.


Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) denotes the presence of metastatic disease and is largely incurable using present-day therapies. Chemotherapy remains a therapeutic option in this patient population, and there are many pertinent issues surrounding its use in patients with stage IV NSCLC. Eleven questions were framed by the American College of Chest Physicians Lung Cancer Guidelines Committee, and these were addressed by a systematic search of the available literature. The issues addressed included the identification of prognostic factors in selecting patients for chemotherapy and a critical analysis of the survival benefit provided by chemotherapy. Given the development of several new chemotherapy agents over the past decade, the impact that these agents have made was addressed as well as the definition of a standard of care regarding chemotherapeutic regimens. Given the fact that chemotherapy does not represent a curative option, other issues addressed were the optimal duration of treatment as well as its impact on symptom relief and quality of life, the role of second-line therapy, and the outcomes expectations from both first-line and second-line chemotherapy. The question of what specialty delivered the chemotherapy also was addressed. Once the data were identified, a critical analysis was undertaken attempting to objectively portray the data in support of answers for each of the questions posed. We believe the data support the fact that properly selected patients benefit from chemotherapy with regard to survival and palliation in both first-line and second-line settings. It appears that in trials addressing the duration of first-line therapy, this survival and palliative benefit occurs early, and prolonged therapy is not indicated. Therapy in this setting is cost-effective, and there are several regimens that can be considered to be "standard-of-care" options. Physicians involved in the diagnosis of these patients should be aware of the potential benefits of chemotherapy, allowing them to give recommendations to patients that are based on data derived from clinical trials. In addition, this awareness will allow them to make referrals, when appropriate, to physicians who are trained in the administration of chemotherapy and the management of patients undergoing such therapy.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / secondary*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Platinum Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Platinum Compounds